Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Potential Mother Lode of a Contest

(Edited May 10 to amend some egregious flaws in my interpretation of NHC points awards and fresh guidance about Sunday's tournament being in the "pick-and-pray" format)

There's no way in hell I'd get to play live in any handicapping contest this Sunday (ugh, Mother's Day), but as an NHC Tour player and writer, I registered for an intriguing new handicapping contest series offered by is running a 3-contest feeder series that will award two berths to the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge (DMHC) on Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, where five (5) spots will be awarded to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC XV) next January in Las Vegas.

The entry fee to's Del Mar feeder is only $29.  The format will be "pick and pray" (i.e. enter selections for the full contest card before post time of the first contest race).

Not the kind of Mother Lode
NJ Horseplayer has in mind...
but one worth watching
(cover your ears)
Two more feeders are scheduled -- Saturday, May 18 (Preakness Day) and Sunday, May 26.

Feeders are capped at 200 players and 1 entry per player, with the top two finishers from each feeder squaring off in a 6-player championship on Sunday, June 2, for two berths to Del Mar and the others receiving $250-$500 of site credit.

The NHC Tour Point Dynamic

As an NHC Tour player with at least some leaderboard points (989 from the Monmouth Park SSC Invitational, good for a temporary spot among the Top 200), I have begun to ponder the need to accumulate more points in hopes of cracking the Top 150 -- good enough for a back door to NHC XV (assuming I do not win an NHC qualifier outright).

The way I see it, HorseTourneys is offering not only unique access to the NHC through the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge, but also potential entry to an elite live-money, on-track tournament limited to 60 contestants, where the buy-in is $6,000 and players like me are priced out of the market.

Here's the Del Mar prize structure (all with an NHC berth and $700 travel stipend):
  • 1st place -- NHC, paid $10,000 Breeders Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) buy-in, $25,000 cash
  • 2nd -- NHC, $2,500 toward BCBC, $10,000 cash
  • 3rd -- NHC, $2,500 toward BCBC, $5,000 cash
  • 4th -- NHC, $2,500 toward BCBC, $3,000 cash
  • 5th -- NHC, $2,500 toward BCBC, $2,000 cash
NHC berths alone are worth their weight in gold, but the other rewards are clearly enticing as well.

From an NHC Tour points perspective, the two players who come out of's Del Mar feeder series and finish in the top 10% of the DMHC would come away with at least 1,000 Tour points (roughly 3,800 for first, down to 1,250 for sixth for an "on-site" tourney with buy-ins).

Not bad for $29!

Consistent with the format for the 6-player final on Sunday, June 2, I'm guessing the Mother's Day feeder will consist of 10 mandatory races, with notional $2 win-place wagering and a 22-to-1 cap on win and 10-to-1 cap on place. has rolled out a "challenge wagering" format for some contests, where players make selections on, say, 8 of 15 possible races, but the Mother's Day feeder will feature the "pick-and-pray" format, giving those of us who can, say, handicap the card on Saturday but cannot play on Sunday an opportunity to participate.

Credit once again to tournament director McKay Smith for adding an interesting new wrinkle to the handicapping contest circuit and creating a unique opportunity for NHC Tour players, namely those in states with fewer on-track tournaments.  Anyone with questions should contact

Already 40 of 200 spots for Sunday have been claimed, and I anticipate a sellout at the $29 price point.

Happy Mother's Day!

I would say "see you online" this Sunday, but chance are I'll (like many other NHC Tour players with the non-horseplayer wives and moms) be catering to my lovely wife and mother-in-law this Mother's Day, as they surely deserve it.

Meanwhile, my mom's en route to Boston to work the 7th Annual Alstrom Syndrome International Family & Medical Conference, so she gets an rain check.

But, as a casual horseplayer herself, I'm sure she'll be amenable to a long-distance Mother's Day blessing...and an IOU on a non-contest day.

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